Yesterday, in a 35 to 34 vote, South Dakota's Senators killed and buried SB 76, a so-called "scaredy cat" bill. The bill, authored by State Representative Betty Olsen (R), was similar to legislation Representative Olsen tried to get passed in 2009. SB 76 would have expanded an existing law that allows South Dakotan's to kill mountain lions that threaten personal safety or property. SB 76 would have eliminated the need for an actual threat, and allowed people to legally shoot any lion--regardless of the lack of threat--on sight.
Claiming that she fears mountain lions, and that her bill would eliminate the need for ranchers to carry out the illegal practice of "shoot, shovel, and shut up," Representative Olsen put forth a list of questionable and possibly erroneous lion attack stories in an effort to make her case. According to Representative Olsen, "the mountain lion is a very dangerous predator, not a game animal."
Representative Troy Heinert (D) was one of the legislators who felt that the bill was unnecessary and stood in opposition to it. Claiming that he also lived in "cat country," and owned horses and cows, Representative Heinert stated that if he saw a cat walking through his pasture, he wouldn't consider it a threat to his livestock or to people.
South Dakota's indigenous mountain lion population was originally wiped out by settlers in 1890, and it has taken almost a hundred years for the species to naturally return to the Black Hills region of the state. In 2003, declaring that there were a sufficient number of lions to establish a seasonal hunt, the South Dakota state legislature removed mountain lions from the state's threatened species list and reclassified them as a big game animal. In 2005, South Dakota held its 1st mountain lion hunting season and since then at least 600 mountain lions have died as a result of human-caused mortalities with hunting being the primary cause of death.